The challenge: Find a way to improve the way people find, transport, use or dispose of water. The solution from Team Cobra, a group of 9-12 year olds from Fargo, North Dakota: Develop a product that detects when fire hydrants are full of water and could potentially freeze.
Team Cobra was one of more than 32,000 teams from 90 countries participating in the FIRST LEGO League national science competition. As part of the competition, students must create a prototype, present their idea to a panel of judges, as well as build and program a robot using LEGO MINDSTORMS®. The goal is to inspire young people to participate in science and technology, and pursue educational and career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Each team consists of a minimum of two people and a maximum of eight, and a team coach or group of coaches.
“They saw first-hand how technology was used in manufacturing, which I think was very inspiring.” Josh Farsdale, Team Cobra Head Coach
With the focus of this year’s challenge on hydrodynamics, “Team Cobra visited the city of Fargo, North Dakota, and talked with several people from their local water and fire departments,” said AMERICAN Flow Control Senior Salesman Chris Ruskamp. “I also came out and talked with the team about fire hydrants and how they worked. By talking with the city and others, the students decided to focus on the fire hydrant and came up with the Freeze Float.”
Team Cobra’s prototype was designed to sense when water was in the hydrant and send a signal to the water department that the hydrant was full. This signal would alert the water department that the hydrant needed attention before it was used in an emergency. Team Cobra received the award for Best Innovative Solution at the regional competition. In addition, the team earned the First Place Core Values: Gracious Professionalism Trophy.
“After receiving an award at regionals, team members asked if they could come and tour the Waterous plant to further refine their idea,” said Ruskamp. “While they were here, they also presented their idea to several Waterous and AMERICAN Flow Control employees to get feedback.” Ruskamp said it was truly a team effort with AMERICAN Flow Control Area Manager Dave Waldoch and Waterous Vice President of Operations Dan Reese also helping to arrange the tour that will hopefully inspire future manufacturers.
“I think that the kids experienced their first factory tour [at Waterous],” said Cobra’s Head Coach Josh Farsdale. “They saw first-hand how technology was used in manufacturing, which I think was very inspiring.”
Coach Stacy Schwarz said “Chris’ excitement about the students’ interest in his area of expertise, encouragement and willingness to provide them with basic and sometimes specific information about fire hydrants as well as making the tour happen, often gave them the drive to keep improving their ideas. I can honestly say that this inspiration is being driven in part by Chris’ encouragement as well as that of our local fire hydrant maintenance person. Kids can do amazing things when someone inspires and believes in them, and Cobras thank you for cheering them on!”
To learn more about the First Lego League, visit https://www.firstinspires.org/.